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Arsenal need to toughen up for a difficult 2016

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The last time Arsenal held the pole position in the Premier League (2013/14), the manner in which they blew their title became a story tough to describe and hard to digest. The Gunners were on course for their fourth Premier League title and were table toppers until February, when fourth-placed Liverpool gave them a reality check with a 5-1 drubbing. A month later, Chelsea inflicted yet more damage with a 6-0 win over their London rivals. Soon after, Arsenal’s title hopes were done and Manchester City went on to lift the title despite having led the table for just 12 days.

Arsenal have come a long way since then. As they’ve proved throughout 2015, they have much more potential and quality, with Mesut Özil’s psionic powers leading the title charge.

But for all of Arsenal’s quality thus far, Saturday’s 4-0 mauling at St. Mary’s Stadium rekindled the question many thought had been buried: “Do Arsenal really have the mental strength required to go all the way?” It is perfectly reasonable to ask the question, more so for a side that seems to fear success, even when it knocks on their door with open arms.

As Victor Wanyama crushed Gunners attackers with his ebullience and strength, Arsenal had the demeanor of a haplessly, shabby old dog, begging to be dragged out of its misery. Their recovery on Monday against Bournemouth may be cast Southampton as a hiccup extenuating from cold legs that were still enjoying Christmas festivities, but with a few more guest appearances of those hiccups, Arsenal will find themselves competing for just a place in the top four, yet again.

SEE MORE: Wenger vows to get January transfer business done early.

Arsenal have successfully dodged a number of bullets on their way to the top spot, but the beginning of 2016 is where the real test of character, mentality and consistency begins. In addition to daunting trips to Anfield, the Etihad Stadium, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and the Britannia Stadium apart, the pressure to retain the FA Cup and a Round of 16 pairing against FC Barcelona will demand a lot off Arsene Wenger’s side. To perform at their very best becomes sacrosanct. It’s not going to be a passeggiata by any means. All of those away games will define the season.

Just as it is important to come away unscathed from those trips, so it is to not prescind from making significant additions to what looks a depleted squad. If the BBC is correct, Arsenal are very close to signing Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel, and he’d be an excellent signing for the defensive midfield position. But that has to be the first of three or four signings. Two more forwards and at least one more midfielder are the needs of the hour. To fulfill these needs would be a huge stride toward lifting the title.

The Premier League is known for its vagaries, and Arsenal have for some time been the sufferers of such shifts. With 2015/16 increasingly looking like Arsenal’s season and a few obstacles already awaiting them, the Gunners need to toughen up.

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